Graubünden’s southernmost valleys boast glorious alpine views, fine historical monuments and a distinctly Italian atmosphere. Add delicious local food and you have all the ingredients for delightful days out!
ou have a choice in St. Moritz. How would you like to board the “Palm Express” PostBus for a trip to one of the most picturesque spots on earth – the Val Bregaglia, “valley of artists” – passing some of Switzerland’s most contrasting landscapes along the way?
Or how about an outing to a little corner of palm-filled paradise? This involves a dramatic alpine crossing on the Rhaetian Railway (RhB), whose breathtaking Bernina line – part of UNESCO World Heritage – leads over the Bernina Pass and down into the charming Val Poschiavo.
After the train has passed the highest stop on the RhB network – the Ospizio Bernina, at 2,253 metres above sea level – passengers wave goodbye to the snow and the cold. Now the line leads steadily downhill: to sunshine, palms and an unmistakably Italian atmosphere. In the Val Poschiavo, visitors enjoy a unique combination of nature and culture that provides a sunny experience of La Dolce Vita. “Authentic” is a word that may well come to mind repeatedly as you explore the pretty towns, stroll across Italian-style piazzas, admire beautifully preserved monuments – and tuck into a delicious dish of traditional local Pizzoccheri.
Visitors interested in culture are in for a treat in the town of Poschiavo, whose historical attractions include beautiful patrician houses and elegant piazzas. The “Spanish quarter”, with its colourful houses built by returning emigrants, also offers an attractive stroll. Culture includes cuisine, of course: many restaurants serve a mouth-watering selection of home-made specialities from the Val Poschiavo and the Engadin.
Pristine nature, magnificent alpine views and gastronomic delicacies served with fine Valtellina wines await you at Alp Grüm, 2,091 metres above sea level. Easy to reach by RhB train, but also accessible along a hike or mountain bike tour, this spot gives visitors a feeling of boundless freedom – which can be almost overwhelming if you are not prepared for it. The views of the majestic Bernina massif, the awe-inspiring Palü Glacier and the sapphire-blue Lago di Poschiavo are enough to make you dizzy. Best, then, to take a seat right away on the sun terrace of the Albergo Ristorante Alp Grüm, and order a plate of hearty Pizzoccheri or a succulent Cordon Bleu.
Next stop: Cavaglia, a high plateau of lush meadows, and flowing through it, the river Cavagliasco. A footpath brings you to a natural gem: circular hollows in the rock up to 10 metres deep, some of which reveal views of ice-blue torrents of glacial water. Locals call them the “Marmitte dei giganti”, the “Giants’ pots”. Also known as glacial mills, these curiosities were created by stones that began to spin in the strong current of the meltwaters; over thousands of years they carved out the holes, polishing the rock smooth. Today these cavities are prehistorical witnesses of the processes that created the Alps. Fascinating for adults, they also offer a real adventure for children – thanks especially to “Grummo the giant”, who accompanies them around the glacier garden. His little illustrated book, full of fascinating facts about glaciers and how they were formed, tells Grummo’s story and invites children to solve a puzzle: how did he become a giant?
As befits a valley that links our Engadin to Italy, the Val Bregaglia has a decidedly Italian feel under its sunny skies. World-famous artists such as Alberto Giacometti and Giovanni Segantini made their home here and immortalised the wild alpine beauty, between glaciers and palms, in their works of art.
… is what Giovanni Segantini called the enchanting village of Soglio, a gem set on a sunny mountain terrace. First written records of the village date from 1219, but evidence shows that people have lived here since prehistoric times. By contrast, the two giant sequoias that reach up into the sky from the garden of the baroque Palazzo de Salis, like pillars of the earth, are relatively recent: they were brought here from the USA in 1884. Today, along with the church of San Lorenzo, they are the emblems of the village. Add the colourful display of flowers in and around Soglio, and you wish you had brushes, palette, canvas and at least a little talent in order to be able to capture the heavenly moment.